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Wilson Center Examines Challenges Posed by the Transforming Middle East

Volume 4, Issue 1


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Demetra Atsaloglou
January/February 2012—No. 01 (202) 785-8430

AHI President’s Note: The American Hellenic Institute presents AHI’s Capital Report which is a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to help keep you abreast of the latest developments. As a service to our membership and constituency, and to gain an understanding of the position of other entities on our issues, the American Hellenic Institute attends and participates at policy forums or roundtable discussions to ensure the policy positions of the Greek-American community are represented.

The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

Wilson Center Examines Challenges Posed by the Transforming Middle East

AHI attended an event at the Wilson Center titled, “Transformation of the Middle East: Challenge and Response of the International Community,” January 18, 2012. Michael Van Dusen, executive vice president of the Wilson Center provided opening remarks.

The presentation featured Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Ambassador Peter Wittig, who discussed the challenges for the international community in promoting peace and stability presented by the Arab Spring. He explained the dilemma for the United Nations lies with striking a balance between the promotion of peace without interference in domestic affairs. A unified voice to encourage the goals of the international community via the UN Security Council would be the greatest tool to address this dilemma. However, it has failed to materialize. Even so, Wittig identified a few areas where the international community can meet its goal of peace in the region, including working with moderate Islamic political parties, understanding the role economics played in the Arab Spring and seeking ways to remedy the problems and working with regional actors such as the Arab League.

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FYROM’s Potential NATO Membership Addressed at U.S. Helsinki Commission Hearing

AHI attended a Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) hearing on “The Western Balkans and the 2012 NATO Summit” held January 18, 2012. The hearing focused on the upcoming May NATO Summit in Chicago and the issues that are presented with it. These issues include FYROM and its potential membership to NATO. Speaking at the event were witnesses Daniel Serwer, Nida Gelazis and Ivan Vejvoda. U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) chaired the hearing.

Daniel Serwer, senior fellow, Council for Transatlantic Relations, testified that FYROM has met the obligations of its Membership Action Plan and thus should be extended an invitation at the Chicago Summit. By extending an invitation to FYROM, NATO can help foster stability and development in the region while failure for invitation could enflame ethnic tension, according to Serwer.

Nida Gelazis, senior associate of the European Studies Program, Woodrow Wilson International Centers for Scholars, discussed FYROM’s need to first settle its issues with Greece before an invitation can be extended. A settlement would resolve one of the last hurdles to NATO membership for FYROM and clearly indicate its commitment toward the values expected of a NATO member, she said. To proceed without an agreement between the two countries would limit the incentive to come to a resolution.

Ivan Vejvoda, vice president, German Marshall Fund, offered the best solution for FYROM is one which helps the country move forward. FYROM has been eligible for entry to the EU and NATO, but its failure to enter has curbed reform taking place. Therefore, Vejvoda believes it is incredibly important for Greece and FYROM to find a solution to which both can agree so they can move forward and bring further stability in the region.

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Turkey’s FM: “Cyprus Question,” French Keeping Turkey Out of EU

AHI attended Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu’s address at The George Washington University on Turkey’s role in the Arab Spring, on February 9, 2012.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu cited three geopolitical “earthquakes” – the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, September 11, and the global financial crisis – as three geopolitical “earthquakes” that occurred due to the absence of a new international, economic, political and cultural order following the Cold War. He pointed out that Turkey still remains a politically stable and economically vibrant country despite Europe’s economic crisis and the political crisis in the Arab region.

The foreign minister stated, “There cannot be European history without Turks, and there will not be European history without Turks. We have been part of European history and will continue to be a part of European history.”

Specifically, he said if there were not the “Cyprus Question” and French opposition that Turkey could have been a member of the European Union or almost completed the negotiation process. “If Turkey was a member of the EU, EU would have been strategically much more influential and geopolitically more relevant to world politics because history is flowing in our region. EU would be much stronger economically as for example, in 2010, 1.5 million people lost their jobs in the EU and Turkey created 1.5 million new jobs. Therefore the EU’s rate of unemployment could be zero.”

Concerning the situation in Arab Region, Foreign Minister Davutoglu said, “…with the Arab league and other leaders from Europe on Monday, we’ll bring up the Syrian issue with the State Department and Secretary Clinton. We want to have an international platform to support the Syrian people and show solidarity with them against this bloodshed, massacre. That will be the substance of this platform. But we cannot let the Syrian people be dying every day.”

In addition, he said Turkey is not a silent country, and it will always be vocal when it argues. When a country makes a mistake Turkey cannot be silent, alluding to Israel’s “mistake.”

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CSIS Hosts Turkish Foreign Minister

AHI attended a forum with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hosted by The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on February 10, 2012. There, the foreign minister discussed the course of Turkish foreign policy. Dr. John Hamre, CEO/president, CSIS provided introductory remarks. Bulent Aliriza, director and senior associate, Turkey Project CSIS, moderated.

Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s remarks focused on the transformation taking place with a movement away from post-Cold War structures to new models centered more on freedom and democracy. Although these transitions are taking place in many areas, there are still attempts by others to push against the transformation and impose the old structures limiting the rights of the population, he said. The foreign minister emphasized Turkey’s role in the region is to promote transformation through diplomatic means. Turkish policy is focused in areas in the region which side with the people rather than outdated government structure. By doing so, and continuing to allow change in the international order, Davutoğlu sees the possibility of a new global order which promotes dialogue and economic justice to solve global issues.

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Turkey’s Domestic Issues Scrutinized by Panel

AHI attended a panel titled “Turkish Democracy: A Model Abroad, Troubled at Home?” on February 22, 2012 presented by the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) at The Stimson Center. Daphne McCurdy, senior research associate at POMED, offered introductory remarks and moderated. The panel discussed the increasingly criticized domestic disputes arising in Turkey regarding democracy while promoting similar ideas abroad.

Dr. Sinan Ciddi, executive director, Institute for Turkish Studies, placed emphasis on the problematic nature of constant constitutional reforms and the lack of progress on the new constitution. Dr. Ciddi also cited the altering of the judicial branch and the arrests involving the National Intelligence Organization as examples. These three issues, Dr. Ciddi believes, will cast doubt on Turkey as it attempts to spread democracy in the region.

The second panelist, Howard Eissenstat, assistant professor, St. Lawrence University, and Turkey specialist, discussed human rights issues in Turkish society. Mr. Eissenstat acknowledged the progress which the AKP party has made in wealth and development and in the support of democracy across the country. His main concern is with the growing crackdown on political dissonances and increased censorship without explicit government involvement.

The third panelist, Ambassador Ross Wilson, former American ambassador to Turkey and director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, discussed Turkey as a model of democracy. In this vein, the reason why Turkey looks attractive to neighboring countries experiencing a transition is because democracy has worked in Turkey, according to Ambassador Ross. Other countries aspire to acquire similar gains. He added that Turkey is “not a liberal democracy” but was making progress. However, issues of concern are threats toward freedom of press and judicial matters.

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